About that traffic light

Slow going on Main Street. Click to enlarge.

Numerous comments on this blog and elsewhere bring up the issue of traffic. We all know what it’s like in the town center during peak hours. The presumptive developers of the Smith property also recognize this and have indicated that their preliminary plans may well include such mitigation efforts as the installation of a traffic light at Main and Wattaquadock, and road widening.

A review of previous traffic studies done for this area, however, brings to light how serious the challenge really is. Even before contemplating the possibility of such a sizable commercial development at that intersection, these studies, the most recent of which was done nearly a decade ago, point to issues so severe that even the addition of a traffic light may do little to help.

Signalizing only the Main/Wattaquadoc intersection without enhancing capacity (i.e. widening the road) “Level of Service is still F in both peak hours.”  [F=breakdown and/or gridlock] (MAGIC Study, 2001, p. 12)

“The only way to improve level of service at this location, if traffic volumes stay at current levels, is to add capacity to Main Street, an option that would require encroachment onto the sidewalks and/or lawns of properties there.” (MAGIC Study, 2001, p. 17)

The proposal for a market and a drugstore on this site suggests the potential for high numbers of daily vehicle visits. Sit in the lot of a Roche Brothers or a Whole Foods or a CVS  for an hour or two and see for yourself how many cars (and re-stocking deliveries) come and go. These types of stores are typically open 12-14 hours a day, 7 days a week, 360 days a year.

On top of this, layer on the fact that the study cited above is nearly a decade old (i.e. the baseline issues are worse today), and you get a sense for the magnitude of the challenge.

Obviously, all the previous traffic studies done at this location would be made mostly obsolete if this proposal or some version of it moves forward. A new study will need to be done taking into account these new conditions, plus the impact, if any, of the new Public Safety Facility, and that study would have new recommendations. Can’t wait to see it.

To read a short summary of three previous studies of this intersection, click here. Thanks to Deb Kellett of the Public Ways Safety Committee for assembling the summary. All the studies are available at Town Hall and some are on the town website. Contact Jennifer Burney, Town Planner, if interested in reviewing any of the data on file.

—Roland

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2 Responses to About that traffic light

  1. Joan Entwistle says:

    Thank you Roland for creating this blog and posting so much useful information for the residents of Bolton. I have been a resident for going on 22 years, and while much has changed, the view of the town center from the winery, where I first visited and decided to move to Bolton, is still 2 church steeples and the town hall – gorgeous!
    On the Smith site, perhaps we should continue what is already somewhat of a mixed-use “village” – residential and compatible commercial uses that are be in walking distance of each other. Some possibilities for occupants: another 55+ community, affordable apartments/houses, more elderly housing, teen recreation center, daycare center, gym or pool, doctor’s offices, a coffee shop.
    I would want to see the northern section of the land left as open space/woods or a playing field to maintain the current rural viewscape. Placing a large structure in this area, which is a higher elevation than the rest of the site, would be much more of a blight than the empty service station. Any new buildings should match the density, size/scale, and setbacks of the current buildings so as to enhance the existing community.
    There is a proposal for a mixed-use overlay district – does this address the current zoning setbacks etc. which have forced the current commercial developments to be so far apart as to discourage walking?

  2. Jonathan Keep says:

    The proposed development of ‘Bolton Crossing’ if built will increase traffic on Rte. 117/ Main St. Longer back-ups in the morning & evenings will push more commuters and local drivers onto the adjacent back roads of Bolton. While some short cuts may not be shorter, for some drivers the important thing is to keep moving.

    Morning drivers coming from the West on Rte. 117 and finding traffic backed up to Sampson Road, might try to bypass the wait by taking Green Rd. to Harvard Rd. to Golden Run to Sugar Rd. to get onto 495 or to East End Rd. to continue East on 117. Other morning drivers, after sitting in stop & go traffic for a mile, might in frustration take Manor Rd. to Berlin Rd. to S. Bolton Rd. to Century Mill Rd. to Hudson Rd. to 117 East.

    Most of these back roads are narrow, without painted center-lines, side-lines or reflectors and with many blind driveways, turns and hills. Morning commuters bypassing Main St. would be sharing the back roads of Bolton with our school children waiting for the bus.

    Evening commuters coming off of 495 might see the traffic backed up to Burnam Rd. and decide to take Sugar Rd. or Hudson Rd. to bypass the wait. Commuters driving from the East on 117 might turn off early at East End Rd. to get around the congestion of our new ‘town center’.

    Bolton’s back roads could be widened, straightened, graded and painted to accommodate faster drivers bypassing Main St. but is that what we really want? ‘Bolton Crossing’ if built will have a negative impact on the residents of our Back Roads as well as Main St.

    I look forward to reading the results of a thorough & objective traffic study.

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